Infection Risk at Work, Automatability, and Employment

28 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2023

See all articles by Ana Abeliansky

Ana Abeliansky

Vienna University of Economics and Business

Klaus Prettner

Vienna University of Economics and Business - Department of Economics

Roman Stöllinger

Vienna University of Economics and Business

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Abstract

We propose a model of production featuring the trade-off between employing workers versus employing robots and analyze the extent to which this trade-off is altered by the emergence of a highly transmissible infectious disease. Since workers are - in contrast to robots - susceptible to pathogens and also spread them at the workplace, the emergence of a new infectious disease should reduce demand for human labor. According to the model, the reduction in labor demand concerns automatable occupations and increases with the viral transmission risk. We test the model's predictions using Austrian employment data over the period 2015-2021, during which the COVID-19 pandemic increased the infection risk at the workplace substantially. We find a negative effect on occupation-level employment emanating from the higher viral transmission risk in the COVID years. As predicted by the model, a reduction in employment is detectable for automatable occupations but not for non-automatable occupations.

Note:
Funding Information: Klaus Prettner is grateful to the Austrian National Bank (OeNB) for the funding of the project “The Viral Transmission Risk of Occupations in Austria and Its Implications for Automatability (TROIA)” through the Jubil¨aumsfonds (project number: 18754).

Declaration of Interests: None.

Keywords: Automation, Robots, pandemics, viral transmission risk, occupational employment, shadow cost of human labor

Suggested Citation

Abeliansky, Ana and Prettner, Klaus and Stöllinger, Roman, Infection Risk at Work, Automatability, and Employment. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4606044 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4606044

Ana Abeliansky

Vienna University of Economics and Business ( email )

Welthandelsplatz 1
Vienna, 1020
Austria

Klaus Prettner (Contact Author)

Vienna University of Economics and Business - Department of Economics ( email )

Augasse 2-6
A-1090 Wien
Austria

Roman Stöllinger

Vienna University of Economics and Business ( email )

Welthandelsplatz 1
Vienna, 1020
Austria

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